I have been in love with the electron microscope ever since I first learned of its existence as a child. When I was in college as an undergrad, I desperately wanted to take the scanning electron microscopy course, but due to the way my college assigned courses to students I was never able to get in. So, I was the happiest person on the planet when I got to take Biological Electron Microscopy shortly after starting grad school. Since then, I’ve taken every opportunity to use the scanning electron microscope and have amassed a lovely little collection of micrographs (microscope + photograph = micrograph). Here are five from my collection!
Blue Orchard Bee Foot
I helped with a study looking at pollination by blue orchard bees a while back. As the project’s microscopist, I took a ton of micrographs of pollen from almond trees, but occasionally I’d run across a body structure of a bee that I found interesting and snapped a quick shot of it. This is the foot of the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria:
Insects have some amazing structures when you look really closely! Look at all those hairs, the claws, the joints! There’s so much texture there! Another good example of this is the…
Honey Bee Eye
Honey bee eyes are SO hairy! That includes their compound eyes:
When I taught Insect Behavior, we had one morphology lab (morphology = body structures and forms) where we would spend half the lab period in the classroom and half in the electron microscopy lab. I let students bring in insects they wanted to examine with the microscope, and one student brought in this bee. No matter how much you think you know about a species, electron microscopy can open up a whole new world to you! I never noticed that honey bee eyes were hairy until I saw one under the scanning electron microscope, but those hairs are big enough to see without the microscope too. Now I see it every time I look at a honey bee. I wonder if this is where the term “giving you the hairy eyeball” comes from…
Whirligig Beetle Antenna
Have you ever seen whirligig beetles darting about frantically on the surface of the water? If so, have your noticed how they don’t run into each other as they swirl around? Whirligigs are highly maneuverable beetles with funky stubby little legs that allow them to change directions very quickly. However, they have to be able to sense when they’re getting close to their comrades to avoid hitting them. That’s where these come in:
That antenna is quite sensitive to vibrations on the surface of the water and lets the whirligig beetle know when it’s about to collide with one of its relatives with just enough time to swerve out of the way. Utterly cool!
Water Scorpion Beak
Water scorpions in the genus Ranatra are my favorite true bugs. I absolutely love them! I wrote a whole post about them a while back so you can read more about them there if you’re interested, but I want to focus on one part for now:
That’s the water scorpion’s piercing-sucking mouthpart, often called it’s beak. Beaks like that are the defining characteristic of the true bugs in the order Hemiptera. In the case of the water scorpions, they use that beak to stab a prey animal, then pump digestive chemicals into the prey, wait for the tissues inside to liquefy, and suck up the juices through the beak like a straw. Awesome mouthpart, though a run in with a beak like that can be unpleasant. I generally leave true bugs alone or handle them very carefully to be sure I’m not bitten.
Mite on Blue Orchard Bee
I wrote a post about the mites I found on the blue orchard bees when I did the pollination study I mentioned above, but it never hurts to take another look at one of the most adorable little parasites on the planet:
If you must have a parasite, you might as well have a cute one! That’s Krombein’s hairy-footed mite, in case you were wondering. I think it would make a fantastic plush.
Hope everyone’s having a good weekend so far! It’s glorious weather here, and I intend to spend part of tomorrow collecting aquatic insects. Life is good.